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Teen Due In Court In Arson That Destroyed Historic Clock Factory

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PERU, Ill. (CBS) — Two teens have been charged with setting a fire in an historic clock factory in north central Illinois on New Year’s Eve.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports, Peru police Chief Doug Bernabei says Steve Gallacher, 17, of LaSalle, and a 15-year-old boy from Peru face aggravated arson charges for allegedly setting fire to the old Westclox factory at 300-315 5th St. in Peru.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports

The enhanced charges have been filed because a firefighter broke his leg while responding.

“The 26-year-old LaSalle fireman who came in under the mutual aid system received a very serious injury to his femur and knee,” Bernabei said. “The fireman was taken to Illinois Valley Community Hospital near Peru and underwent surgery.”

Bernabei says the firefighter, a Marine veteran, is recovering, but it will take a long time.

Meanwhile, bond for Gallacher has been set at $250,000. Prosecutors have decided to charge him as an adult.

The other suspect is due in court Tuesday.

The fire broke out in the final seconds of 2011, and burned for several hours until the building was destroyed.

The fire also affected the entire Peru Trade Center, which takes up a few blocks and included the old main Westclox factory. Employees who work in the complex will have to wait for fire inspectors to give them the all clear before returning.

The center Westclox building itself housed E&R International, a recycling business. That building was completely destroyed.

“It was a complete and total destruction,” Bernabei said. “There’s walls caved in, and ceilings caved in.”

Over a dozen small businesses operated on the site including a salon, photo studio and women’s gym.

The Westclox factory dates back to the late 19th century, and closed as a factory in March 1980. The complex was put on the National Register of Historic places in 2007.

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